Picture it: A tall, thin man flies high above a music hall stage, hanging from two long, white, flowing scarves. Below him, a full orchestra sits, playing John Williams' "Across the Stars" from Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. (Still with us?) The conductor directs the group, yet twitches just a little in the breeze generated by the aerialist soaring back and forth above his head.
This is Cirque de la Symphonie.
"We don't have laser beams and smoke and mirrors and all sorts of confetti going everywhere," says Bill Allen, Cirque director, on the phone from Atlanta. "It's very elegant."
And yet, it's also not your grandmother's Saturday evening at the philharmonic. Developed by Allen in the late 1990s, the concept takes strong men, jugglers, contortionists and aerialists performers typically seen under a big, red-striped tent and puts them on stage with symphonies.
"We stumbled on the perfect fusion of two art forms," Allen says. "[Cirque] is not a program that's meant to distract from the performance of the orchestra. It's meant to enhance the performance.
"The orchestra is not in an orchestra pit, they're not meant to be there to accompany us. ... Performers have to adapt their acts to the stage accommodations shared with the symphony."
As with all Cirque shows, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic was able to choose the music its musicians would play at this week's performance at the Pikes Peak Center. Selections will include Dvorak's Slavonic Dance No. 8 op. 46, Saint-Sa'ns' "Bacchanale" from Samson and Delilah, and, yes, that earlier Star Wars piece we asked you to conjure up.
Even though Allen says these performances may feel a bit like the circus "goes to finishing school," he doesn't want you to worry about proper etiquette. Applause is welcome, and encouraged, whenever the mood strikes you. And especially when Philharmonic conductor Thomas Wilson gets pulled into a magic trick.
But perhaps then, instead of clapping your hands, you'd better cross your fingers and hope he returns in one piece.
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